Colleen Raney's Stunning New Release

Here This is Home
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In a sea of Celtic chanteuses, Portland (OR)-based Colleen Raney floats to the surface. Hers is a voice both youthful and muscular, capable of fragile beauty ("The Boys of Mullaghbawn"), but also of dark tones ("The Nightingale"), or sheer exuberance ("The Granemore Hare," a bouncy hunt song). What she doesn't do is whispery little girl voices, something she signals out of the gate with a killer cover of the Nic Jones version of "Canadee-i-o." She is literally poetic in places, gracefully interpreting Irish poet Vincent Woods' verses in "Stand Up for Love" and "Sanctuary," both of which guitarist Aidan Brennan set to music. Brennan also produced the album and that alone ought to be an endorsement–Brennan has worked with heavyweights such as Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, Alaisdair Fraser, and Loreena McKennitt, and Susan McKeown, which is to say he's particular about the projects he chooses. Among the many remarkable features of this, Raney's fourth release, is the interplay between musicians and singer. In addition to Brennan we find folks such as Trevor Hutchinson on bass, Steve Larkin on fiddle, Aaron Jones on bouzouki, and Johnny B. Connolly on accordion. Add percussion and keyboards and it's an ensemble that could take down the roof. Instead, both instrumentalists and Raney are in perfect control. Though it sounds an oxymoron, the feel is at once bold and subdued. Exile songs such as "Craigie Hill" are sufficiently wistful, but never dreary. Overall Raney strikes a wonderful pop/trad balance that makes even familiar songs fresh, especially in "Cruel Brother," which she converts into a hoppy number. Here This is Home is one of my favorite recent releases. One can but wish Ms. Raney the success she so richly deserves.   Rob Weir

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